President Trump on Monday moved to block any further action in a lawsuit alleging he violated the foreign emoluments clause, seeking extraordinary relief from a D.C. appeals court in a legal maneuver to end discovery in the case and force it to be dismissed.
The move comes after Trump lost on prior attempts to have a D.C. federal judge dismiss the lawsuit and prevent discovery into his personal financial dealings – and those of his businesses – from going forward. Trump has also failed in a bid to convince the district-level judge to permit an appeal.
The lawsuit brought by congressional Democrats is one of several emoluments cases that accuse Trump of enjoying the benefit of foreign government business in violation of a constitutional prohibition on the receipt of things of value from foreign states.
Senators and members of Congress have sent 37 subpoenas in the matter, according to the court filing, asking for information that includes tax returns for the Trump Organization.
“Now that we have been rightfully granted the opportunity to proceed with discovery, we are seeking a targeted set of documents to obtain the information that we need to ensure that the President can no longer shirk his constitutional responsibility,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a statement. “Unsurprisingly, the Trump Administration is still seeking to delay, delay, delay, but we are confident that the D.C. Circuit will recognize the well-reasoned logic of the District Court, and allow discovery to proceed.”
Trump is seeking a writ of mandamus from the appeals courts, effectively trying to wrest the case away from the D.C. federal judge who allowed discovery to proceed in the case.
Trump called the lawsuit “an end-run around the congressional subpoena process,” saying that congressional Democrats filed a “meritless suit” to “invoke the judicial discovery process.”
“Allowing such a gambit would distract the President from the performance of his constitutional duties in similar ways as seeking discovery directly against the President,” the filing reads.
Trump accused the district court judge of treating the case “as a run-of-the-mill commercial dispute” while failing to recognize the “unique separation-of-powers concerns posed by discovery in a case against the President in his official capacity.”
Government attorneys repeated in the filing an argument that they has now been used in dozens of legal actions attempting to halt probes into the President’s finances: that any investigative action is “intrusive,” and constitutes an invasion of Trump’s “personal financial affairs on account of his federal office.”
Instead of being subject to external oversight, the filing reads, “President Trump must exercise judgment in determining whether his financial interests are compatible with the continued exercise of office under the Emoluments Clauses.”
Trump also argued in the filing that filing the lawsuit is far from Congress’s sole course of action. Lawmakers could, Trump contended, “withhold funds from the Executive, decline to enact legislation” or “enact and override vetoes.”
“Using these remedies, Congress may force the Executive to comply with its view of the law,” government attorneys wrote.
The case is a replay of a similar drama that played itself out in December 2018 in another emoluments lawsuit against the President. In that case, Trump moved for writ of mandamus after suffering a similar series of defeats in a Maryland federal court case where the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general had sued over alleged emoluments violations.
Government attorneys successfully convinced the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt discovery in the case after Trump filed for the writ.
That court heard arguments on the matter in March, but has yet to issue a ruling.
Read the filing here:
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